Court Rejects Law on Genocide Survivor Claims

Rep. Schiff spearheaded Genocide victim claims law

Rep. Schiff spearheaded Genocide victim claims law

SAN FRANCISCO (Combined Sources)—A federal appeals court Thursday rejected a California law that allowed heirs to Genocide victims to seek payment on life insurance policies of victims’ relatives.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the law amounted to unconstitutional meddling in US foreign policy.

It based its 2-1 ruling on a 2003 U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down another California law designed to help Holocaust survivors collect on Nazi-era insurance policies.

“The decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals is an affront to the Armenian American community and, if allowed to stand, sets a dangerous precedent by rewarding the Turkish Government’s efforts on the federal level to deny and cover-up the Armenian Genocide,” said Armenian National Committee-Western Region board chairman Vicken Sonentz-Papazian.

“The message this decision sends is that if you can threaten, cajole and stonewall the U.S. government into inaction on a ‘foreign policy’ issue, you can eliminate a valid and righteous claim of an American citizen in a U.S. court of law,” added Papazian.

The Los Angeles Times reported Friday that Judge Harry Pregerson dissented from the majority opinion by Judges David R. Thompson and Dorothy W. Nelson. Pregerson wrote that the District Court had correctly judged the California statute as “within the state’s traditional area of competence” in regulating the insurance industry, according to the LA Times.

Lawyer Brian Kabateck, who represents Armenian-American heirs, plans to appeal.

“The ruling is wrong. It’s a disaster,” Kabateck told the Associated Press. “The one million Armenians that live in California today have been told by the court that even the use of the word ‘genocide’ by a government is illegal.”

Vartkes Yeghiayan, the lawyer for lead plaintiff Father Vazken Movsesian of St. Peter Armenian Church, described the ruling as “devastating,” reported the Los Angeles Times.

The California Legislature passed the law giving heirs of Armenians who died or fled to avoid persecution until the end of next year to file claims for old bank accounts and life insurance policies. European banks and insurers are said to have retained assets valued in 1915 at about $15 million, a sum worth substantially more at today’s value.

Class-action lawsuits brought by Armenian descendants in California and other states led to a $20 million settlement with New York Life Insurance Co. in 2005 and a $17 million settlement the same year with French life insurer AXA.

William Werfelman, a spokesman for New York Life, said the company had no intention of trying to get back any of the money it paid out under the 2005 settlement, the Associated Press reported.

“By acting honorably, and in keeping with our company values of humanity and integrity, New York Life made many friends in the Armenian community and we cherish these friends,” Werfelman told the Associated Press.

Thursday’s ruling reversed a lower court judge who refused to dismiss another class-action suit against the German life insurance companies.

U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Pasadena, who as a state assemblyman co-wrote the law that was overturned by the 9th Circuit, was perplexed by the court’s reasoning, according to the Associated Press.

“You have a group of people that has a government that hasn’t had the will to recognize the genocide and as a result of that failing, are being told they don’t have valid insurance claims,” he told the AP.


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  1. Bob Kay said:

    This is a mockery. The last victim is the truth. Not only should it be appealed the ruling must be overturned!!!!!

  2. Gary Artinian said:

    This is outright wrong. The Federal Appeals court decision is wrong for several reasons.
    First: Life insurance has nothing to do with foreign policy of a third country. The Insured person died ,and the heirs have the right to collect the insurance.
    Second: Us foreign policy as represented By Ambassador Morgenthau was against the perpetrated genocide, and The Ambassador refused Prime Minister Talaat’s request for the list of Armenian’s who had life Insurance with American companies, thereby making it clear that US Government condemns the Genocide being committed, and second the Victims life insurance proceeds belong to the victims families and not to the criminals.
    Third: By this decision, US Appelas Court Itself is getting involved in the denial and cover up of Genocide. By this ruling they are striking down a historical fact that has been proven extensively. They are making judgement without a trial on the Issue of Genocide.
    The Appeals courts decision is flawed with many mistakes. I am not an attorney; but even I can see that there is a predetermined attitude by the conscenting judges to reject the california law.
    It should be appealed even if takes to going to supreme court.

  3. manooshag said:

    Hye, The political aspect of governments always deter the recognition of any
    Genocides, denials of Genocides… Yet innocents shall have suffered, and innocents suffer into even today in Darfur, the Kurds and more. It wonders me that in all Archives of the civilized nations of the world, (especially , in our national capital, Washington DC) all the words of all those who had witnessed – in this instance of the Ottoman Turks Genocide of the Armenian nation 1915-1923, shall not be acceptable as truths in our U.S. courts!
    Historically, today onlooking civilized nations of the world observe the subsequent Turkish leaders in their ‘ploys’ and convoluted obsessions of the denials of their Genocide of the Armenians. Conquer a nation, take their own lands of over 3,000 years, even further, adopt these ancient peoples’ culture – as if a Turkey’s own! Raphael Lemkin noted: “The important part of Genocide is the destruction of a people’s culture”.
    Archives shall include, in truth, the words of these personages – from many lands – as well of U.S. Ambassador Morgenthau to Turkey (his book of dealing with the Turkish leaders). Others recognized historically (some not politically) exemplary citizens from many lands. Of course, Turks ignore all these Archives, since still in Ottoman mentality, until today. Yet, twenty (20) nations of the world, American citizens of the forty-four (44) of the states of the U.S.A, all International Genocide foundations, the Vatican, and of course, in all Archives of civilized nations the world over – witnesses tell of the Armenian Genocide, truthfully, historically…
    President Obama, historically, shall recognize the Armenian Genocide soon. Politcially Turkey, in full sight of all the world will pull ‘ploys’ – thus to deter, distract, destroy, agrees/to disagree, all ploys/modes used over the years.
    But yet, the worlds Archives will speak out, historically, the truths… Manooshag

  4. Bedros said:

    I have not read the court’s ruling, but it seems to me that it should not matter whether the Armenian genocide was a genocide FOR INSURANCE PURPOSES. If person is murdered, it seems to me that his insurance policy covers that regardless of whether the murder occurred during a genocide or not.
    Also, President Reagan affirmed the Armenian genocide and so did two US House resolutions. The US also sent a letter to the International Court of Justice in about 1952 (if I recall my facts correctly) in which it cited the Armenian “genocide.” What more does the court want?
    Also, the US has backed Holocaust reparations, and yet at the time of the Holocaust, the word genocide had not even been coined yet. I know the court just ruled against Jews in regards to a specific Holocaust reparations case, but that seems to me to have been an exception. The US has absolutely backed Holocaust claims, including the Swiss Gold case.

    I submit that has the plaintiffs been Jewish rather than Armenian in the California case, the plaintiffs would have won.
    Of course, had Obama kept his promise to recognize the genocide, the court may have ruled differently. But then, what did you expect from a racist like Obama.
    What does US Ambassador to Armenia, Marie Yo-man-what-a-*itch have to say about all this?

  5. Roman said:

    Dear Bedros I totally agree with you. Unfortunately not much we can do unless we start voting Armenian judges to courts, and our reach Armenian lawyers will be willing to take this jobs instead of fighting for OJ or Peterson in courts.If you what i mean.

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